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Study suggests Ogdensburg waterfront development start with housing, retail

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OGDENSBURG — If you build it, they will come to Ogdensburg.

That is what the preliminary results from a recently completed marketing study suggest to city planners, who say waterfront development in the city should start with housing. “The findings were overall hopeful,” said Andrea L. Smith, interim director of planning and development. “The study supports the development of market-rate waterfront housing.”

Citizen input from a series of five public workshops was used as a starting point for the study, and the program managers said its results confirm the viability of many residents’ ideas for the city’s vacant waterfront sites.

“The work they were doing was directed through the information we got from the workshops,” said John C. Buckholz, a program manager in the Planning Department. “They found that within a 30-mile radius, there is a huge need for nicer, denser residential options.”

Though Ogdensburg has plenty of houses, it does not offer very much diversity in housing options, Mr. Buckholz said.

“We don’t have anything to offer professionals,” he said. “We can attract people with new housing.”

Better housing options could help to stem the decline in Ogdensburg’s population.

“We have a declining population, but the city has not lost that many jobs,” Mr. Buckholz said. “This implies that people are looking outside of the city for better housing options.”

The study also found a significant need in Ogdensburg for more diverse commercial development.

“There is a demand for some retail,” Ms. Smith said. “We have potential to increase our marketing to Canadians as they come over the border to take advantage of the parity in currency. They come to Price Chopper, then there is nothing providing Canadians with any reason to stay here.”

With few retail options in the city, Ogdensburg residents often drive to Potsdam, Massena or Watertown to shop.

“We bleed people into other areas,” Mr. Buckholz said. “While there are some areas where Ogdensburg’s shops satisfy people’s needs, there are others that need to be developed or people will take their money elsewhere.”

Beyond more shops, Ms. Smith said, the city needs more restaurants.

“There aren’t very many places for visitors to dine,” she said. “And the places we have don’t display a lot of diversity.”

The study gives the planners data-oriented reports they can use to entice developers to the waterfront. “We have done a lot of their busy work for them,” Ms. Smith said.

The mix of commercial and residential development needs to complement a culture centered on the waterfront.

“We got indications that there is a market for a waterfront-oriented lifestyle,” said Mr. Buckholz. “It needs to be integrated into the community.”

Ms. Smith said the city’s future identity depends on what happens with its former waterfront industrial sites.

“Once something is built down there, that is what we’re going to have for the next 50 years,” she said.

The study recommends that Ogdensburg form a cultural committee focused on the waterfront.

“There is a demand for more cultural activities along the lines of what Ogdensburg Command Performances offers,” Ms. Smith said. “More activity would bring attention to the waterfront and encourage development.”

Ogdensburg’s stagnant economy makes development of the waterfront key to the city’s revitalization.

“It is going to take a lot of work to turn it around,” Ms. Smith said. “A huge part of it is building more housing, and making sure future development is planned and designed appropriately.”

The study, conducted by Vita Nuova LLC, Newton, Conn., is funded with a portion of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Area Wide Planning grant.

The study, which began in October, combined economic and demographic research with the results of stakeholder interviews to reach its conclusions.

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